Five Powerful Ways for Leaders to Unlock Innovation

Innovation, Technology
Image source: Bigstock

Innovation is about disrupting the comfortable for the sake of improvement. No one innovates to decrease a process or reduce the benefit. People innovate to bring life to a higher plane because improvement is a deeply held instinct.

Yet innovation doesn’t just happen – it requires cultivation of forces that will disrupt the comfortable. If you are the leader, your number one job is to provide an environment of innovation that will bring your team or business to the next level. Below are five powerful ways for leaders to unlock innovation within their organization.

#1 – Look For and Enlist Your Innovators

Every team has their innovators. They are the ones who speak out by making suggestions on how to do things better, often challenging the status quo. Innovators have big ideas and want to share them with the teams, which can create friction.

As a leader, your job is to enlist these innovators and turn their energy into actions that cultivate results. For example, a manager of one of our professional services groups presented me with an idea to build a new training program. The idea has merit; however, it needs more vetting beyond the “I have an idea” conversation. I asked him to build out the framework of the plan, and develop a model of how it could work within our business. He left the conversation energized and ready to take on the next phase of this innovation.

As a leader, you must have an open door policy of idea vetting. The key is willingness to listen and encourage innovators so they will be motivated to share their creative thinking.

#2 – Create Safety

Leaders create safe environments. Obviously, physical safety is the highest priority, but emotional safety is also important. Emotional safety gives people the opportunity to challenge and question the status quo without fear of retribution.

Strong leaders know that emotional safety is a key leadership tenet and it is not an accident. I recall a situation when two colleagues worked on an idea that resulted in strong results for the team. But during a company meeting, an executive took credit for their work, naming them only as a creative force behind the win. The team that had worked so hard were hurt. To fix the problem, the executive had to go back and quickly correct the misinformation.

Emotional safety is critical to a successful innovation engine. When team members see that action is taken to protect them and give them their due credit, they feel safe to try again.

#3 – Disrupt the Comfortable

Innovation’s job is to challenge the status quo and disrupt the comfortable, which brings with it complaints and dissatisfaction for those being disrupted. As a leader, your job is to get out in front of disruption through strong communications. No one likes surprises and unless you are clear with your messaging, the teams will revolt and hunker down for a fight.

Look for your allies in this process; you will need support to help move innovation forward. Enlist new recruits who see what the innovators see. Your goal is to get people to recognize that although disruption is painful, it is a necessary part of the innovation you need for a more successful organization.

#4 – Sponsor Initiatives

Leaders bring forth initiatives and sponsor them through funding and emotional support. This means you must have some control or influence over budgets, and you’ll need to allocate funds to promote your initiatives.

However, funding is only half of the equation. You will also need to support your team as they run into obstacles. Innovation is about calling out current processes as weak, flawed, or broken. Of course, the people within the current process may…Continue reading


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Artificial intelligence — Who is responsible for the outcomes?

Artificial Intelligence


Artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an ever-increasing role in our modern world, but as the technology progresses and becomes ever-more complex and autonomous, it also becomes harder to understand how it works.

Actually, most people have very little knowledge of how artificial intelligence works, or for that matter, how broadly it is used in everything from daily financial transactions to determining your credit score.

Take the stock market, for example. Only a tiny amount of trading on Wall Street is carried out by human beings. The overwhelming majority of trading is algorithmic in nature. It’s preprogrammed so that if the price of soybeans or oil goes down, all kinds of additional steps will take place.

And that is the whole point of using artificial intelligence algorithms — everything goes so fast, thousands of seconds faster than the human mind can calculate. The problem with this is that AI still has a long way to go before it becomes the pervasive force that has been promised, and this begs the question: should we put our trust in it?

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Artificial Intelligence: Are We Effectively Assessing Its Business Value?

Artificial Intelligence
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By: Richard Boire, Senior Vice President, Environics Analytics


As most data science practitioners know, artificial intelligence (AI) is not new and has been explored by academia back as far back as the fifties. The real core of AI is the branch of mathematics related to neural nets which have been explored both by academia as well as data science practitioners. A number of practitioners including myself familiarized ourselves with these techniques which became one more item within the data scientist toolkit. For those of us involved in using predictive analytics to predict consumer behaviour related to marketing and risk, logistic regression and decision trees in many cases performed at about the same level as neural nets. In some cases such as fraud where there were typically a much larger volume of records, neural nets did exceed the more traditional type of modelling techniques.

But the appetite for AI deployment was always negated by its lack of its explainability to the business stakeholder and as mentioned above the minimal examples of its superior performance relative to the more traditional techniques.

So what changed and what has led to all the excitement about AI. In order to better understand this evolution, one needs to focus on the research. Research in this area for decades always focussed on how these tools could better classify images. Back in the nineties, I remember reading numerous articles from publications where the ability to classify images was approximately 40%-50%. In the last 5 years, though, this accuracy has now achieved levels of 95%+. This game breaking change was caused by two factors with the first factor being related to technology and how data could be processed.

Data and Big Data could now be processed and consumed using parallel processing as opposed to sequential processing. Meanwhile, this newfound technical capability allowed practitioners to consume exponentially much larger volumes of data for analytics (both advanced and non-advanced) purposes. The consumption of these extremely large volumes then allowed users to explore the notion of more complex type neural nets or deep learning, which is the ability to utilize many hidden layers and many nodes as opposed to a single hidden layer with few nodes that was the common occurrence within a restricted sequential data processing environment.  This ability to more fully leverage the power of artificial intelligence was the second factor which now improved the image classification accuracy to 95%+.

With this breakthrough, AI had to be more seriously explored as another option in improving results. But does that mean that we should blindly adopt AI in all our business processes. Certainly, we are seeing the emergence of applications to better detect fraud through improved image recognition while enhanced customer service is the outcome of improved AI-developed chat boxes. Many more applications are being explored and which are expected to provide further disruption to an already changing economy. But let’s discuss the notion of AI within the world of predicting consumer behaviour both from a marketing as well as a risk behaviour.

The use of data science and machine learning to predict consumer behaviour has been an ongoing business discipline for many decades. Success for seasoned data science practitioners in this area was never..Continue Reading


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The WAF backed by artificial intelligence (AI)

Artificial Intelligence, AI
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By , Contributor, Network World

The web application firewall (WAF) issue didn’t seem to me as a big deal until I actually started to dig deeper into the ongoing discussion in this field. It generally seems that vendors are trying to convince customers and themselves that everything is going smooth and that there is not a problem.

In reality, however, customers don’t buy it anymore and the WAF industry is under a major pressure as constantly failing on the customer quality perspective.

There have also been red flags raised from the use of the runtime application self-protection (RASP) technology. There is now a trend to enter the mitigation/defense side into the application and compile it within the code. It is considered that the runtime application self-protection is a shortcut to securing software that is also compounded by performance problems. It seems to be a desperate solution to replace the WAFs, as no one really likes to mix its “security appliance” inside the application code, which is exactly what the RASP vendors are currently offering to their customers. However, some vendors are adopting the RASP technology.

Generally speaking, there is a major disappointment at the WAF customer end because of the lack of automation, scalability, and coverage of the emerging threats which become essential as modern botnets become more and more efficient and aggressive. These botnets are made now by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) functionality on top of the “old” Internet of things (IoT) botnets which are becoming more and more multi-purpose in its ability to attack with different vectors. The functionality that the classic WAF offers have become a matter of discontent, while next-generation WAFs, which were born as AI systems that may address such a multi-dimensional threat complexity, are quite rare.

There are not so many artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) solutions in the cyberdefense segment of the network and application defense. However, more AI and ML solutions are beginning to surface as a major success against distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and more specifically against the application DDoS world, which was shown by L7 Defense with its unsupervised learning approach. Such technology may also play a crucial role in the WAF solutions, as defending against the same multi-purpose botnets.

We are beginning to see movement in the use of ML for the WAF in the cloud. This is evident by the fact that this year Oracle purchased Zenedge, a provider of cloud-based, ML-driven cybersecurity solutions. Zenedge (now Dyn since Oracle’s purchase of it) offers a WAF, which shows signs of automation needed by Oracle cloud offering, although it is not enough to make a huge difference from traditional WAF functionality, as lack a significant technological advance in covering the essential spectrum of threats much better than existing technologies.

AI and ML are the tools used for predictive analytics. Undoubtedly, they are a must for the future and survival of…Continue reading

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Apple vs. Android: Which does your hospital’s innovation strategy resemble?

iPhone, Android, Innovation
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By Bill Siwicki

Apple and Android are famously known for two very different approaches to computing and innovation. Apple has tall castle walls and a moat surrounding its products and innovation strategy – no one can get through. Conversely, Android is open to one and all and encourages outsiders to innovate with its open operating system.

Health systems, hospitals and group practices must innovate to keep up with the fast-changing worlds of both healthcare and IT. And healthcare provider organizations on top of their game have innovation strategies in place to foster progress.

One question becomes: Does a healthcare organization keep its innovation methods close to the vest and closed like Apple or wide open to outside influences like Android?

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each approach.

Innovation the Android way

While different healthcare organizations have different approaches to innovation, open appears to be a popular route. New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, for example, takes the Android path – wide open.

“As a mission-driven organization dedicated to advancing musculoskeletal health globally, we operate without the concern of competition often seen within more closed innovation models,” said Leonard Achan, RN, chief innovation officer at the Hospital for Special Surgery. “HSS is transitioning our business model and moving from a focus factory, as a single-service provider, a specialty hospital, to a knowledge factory.”

As a “knowledge factory,” the Hospital for Special Surgery is leveraging all of its intellectual property, know-how and clinical expertise as part of its evolution to caring for consumers, not just patients, before they even know they need the hospital. This means that its strategy includes not only “inside-out” innovations traditionally seen in academic medical centers – technology transfer – but also inviting the entrepreneurial community in to solve problems with the hospital that span across a consumer’s musculoskeletal lifecycle.

“These ‘outsiders’ then infuse HSS knowledge into their own ideas to create new products, companies and services that differentiate us and our offerings to the world,” Achan explained. “We would not be able to accomplish this if we had a closed model. Our longstanding appetite for experimentation and iterative learning in the clinical realm has transferred into our business development, commercialization and innovation practices.”

The hospital’s maturity in the field of musculoskeletal health as one of the leading experts in the field gives the hospital the confidence and “brand permission” to not worry about others executing ideas without the hospital, he added.

“While commercialization and shared economics are key drivers for our innovation strategy, we do not lose focus of our primary driving force for innovating , which is to get what HSS has to offer today on the upper east side of Manhattan to the rest of the world at scale without having to be at an arms distance to our patients or consumers,” he said.

Digging in the digital dirt

Like the Hospital for Special Surgery, Great Neck, New York-based health system Northwell Health maintains an Android-like open approach to innovation.

“Our strategy is definitely one of open collaboration – much the way advancements in the medical sciences have been made for centuries,” said Emily Kagan Trenchard, vice president of digital and innovation strategy at Northwell Health. “The possibilities of the digital age are being explored and developed in so many sectors, by more brilliant minds than any single company could ever hire alone.”

The wealth of that collective knowledge is what Northwell seeks to harness – bringing together ideas to germinate in what Northwell Chief Technology Officer Purna Prasad, MD, calls the health system’s “digital dirt.”

But there is a qualification to this open methodology.

“This is not to say that Northwell Health doesn’t also have a strong commitment to developing its own custom applications, algorithms and processes,” Trenchard said. “Innovation is a core pillar of our employee promise, and the brilliance of our workforce is a constant source of transformative ideas for our innovation pipeline.”

But to think that Northwell Health could innovate in seclusion, that it could lock itself in a room and still solve the complex and nuanced challenges of delivering care to the country’s largest metropolitan area, would be a hubris the health system could not afford, she added.

“Where possible, being open is much more cost-effective. With the closed devices, security threats are far more manageable.”

Kris Wilson, Hilo Medical Center

Apple and Android: The case for a little bit of both

Kris Wilson, CIO at Hilo Medical Center, which has achieved the HIMSS Analytics Electronic Medical Record Maturity Model Stage 7, discusses specific projects and the medical center’s approach to using open and closed mobile devices in innovative uses of IT.

“Our solution is mixed,” Wilson said. “In situations where we do not interact with PHI on the device and it only needs Internet access, we have used Android devices. For devices internal to the network or where PHI is used as part of the workflow, we use Apple devices or Windows 10 Enterprise-based tablets.”

These healthcare organizations lean toward an Android-like open approach to innovation. So what are the benefits of being open?

“An open approach to innovation has really enabled us to draw upon the best ideas from all sectors,” said Trenchard of Northwell Health. “We’re lucky to have a very strong ventures team that is adept at crafting the various kinds of collaborations, so we don’t have to limit ourselves in the types of partnerships we pursue.”

This openness not only brings Northwell into conversations with fascinating companies just beginning to think about healthcare, but it has introduced new revenue opportunities that Northwell might not have otherwise considered, she added.

“But perhaps the best part of this strategic approach is how much it aligns with our mission – doing this work with like-minded organizations builds a shared sense of purpose and helps us channel energy and attention to the needs of our communities,” she said. “And when partners take that shared knowledge back into their own sectors, we’re not just innovating on behalf of those who come to Northwell, we’re transforming care delivery for the industry as a whole.”

The Hospital for Special Surgery’s organizational culture is built upon shared leadership, collaboration and solving problems by getting the smartest, most talented people in a room to innovate, Achan said.

“For our environment, these practices allow us to challenge each other every day and achieve more together,” he said. “We strive to continue to not only sustain our success, but to manage the tension between maintaining what currently works and experimenting to see what we are capable of. Being proprietary and operating in a closed environment will not allow the creative process to thrive. It will not allow the flexibility to establish an atmosphere that supports value innovation.”

The benefit of sharing and letting others in “de-risks” the hospital from feeling comfort with complacency, Achan said. The open innovation model helps the hospital learn about its own creativity, capabilities and possibilities while remaining humble enough to know that it does not have all the answers in-house and must collaborate with the community to truly improve healthcare for global consumers, he said.

“Being proprietary and operating in a closed environment will not allow the flexibility to establish an atmosphere that supports value innovation.”

Leonard Achan, RN, Hospital for Special Surgery

Android approach has big benefits but challenges, too

At a micro level, the benefits of open versus closed are very clear.

“Where possible, being open is much more cost-effective,” said Wilson of Hilo Medical Center. “The devices are less expensive and we are able to provide devices to a large number of users without impact to the budget. With the closed devices, security threats are far more manageable. System security updates are released frequently, often making it easier to keep these devices up to date.”

But as one would expect, there are challenges to…Continue reading

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Fast Company Innovation Festival to feature Kerry Washington, Tory Burch, Scooter Braun, Brian Grazer, Delta CEO Ed Bastian

Innovation, Technology
Image source: Fast Company


The fourth annual Fast Company Innovation Festival will feature newsmakers in business, the arts, and philanthropy, who will headline a week of interactive field trips, immersive workshops, and insightful panel discussions and interviews led by Fast Company journalists.

Confirmed speakers for keynote conversations include actress, director, producer, and activist Kerry Washington; Academy Award-winning producer Brian Grazer; entertainment executive and investor Scooter Braun; Ford Foundation president Darren Walker; Apple executive and former EPA chief Lisa Jackson; entrepreneur and philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg; Bumble founder and CEO Whitney Wolfe Herd; and CEO and chief creative officer Tory Burch.

Keynote panels and interviews will be held at the 92nd Street Y, the legendary cultural and community center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

The festival will take place at various locations throughout New York City on October 22-26.

The theme of this year’s festival, “The Future Is Creative,” seeks to underscore the importance of creativity, inclusiveness, and innovation to companies and leaders as technological change promises to disrupt business as usual. Additional keynote conversations include Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian in conversation with Spanx founder and CEO Sara Blakely on culture, values, and leadership. Jason Blum, founder of Blumhouse Productions (Get Out, BlacKkKlansman) will share the stage with Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, to discuss new business models in media.

Once again, the centerpiece of the festival will be Fast Company’s trademark Fast Tracks—experiential site visits to the offices of some of the world’s most innovative companies. Dozens of companies and institutions will open their doors to festivalgoers during the week, including Nike, Shinola, Red Antler, BuzzFeed, Casper’s Dreamery, Make It Nice (the restaurant group that includes Eleven Madison Park, NoMad, and Made Nice), SYPartners, Droga5 and Second Child, Equinox, CookFox Architects, R/GA, Universal Standard, Tommy John, Upright Citizens Brigade, and more.

Additional panel conversations, workshops, and curated networking sessions will take place at the festival’s Innovation Hub at 237 Park Avenue.

The festival is sponsored by Intel, Prudential, Post-it Teamwork Tools, Dell Small Business, Intrinsic Wine Co., Johnson & Johnson, Lincoln MKC, PWC, TSX Broadway, Grant Thornton, Arbor Day Foundation, and Lippincott.

Visit the Innovation Festival website for ticket purchase information, a list of speakers, and more details on sessions and Fast Tracks. Additional speakers and sessions will be announced in the coming weeks.


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Telemedicine meets artificial intelligence at bedside

Artificial Intelligence, Telemedicine
Image source: SimpleC – SimpleC Companion computer application displays how a daily schedule of a patient can be programmed.


One of the most serious problems in taking care of the elderly, disabled or those with a chronic disease is getting them to take their medicine or participate in their care because of feelings of isolation, confusion, sadness or depression.

Those failures cause unnecessary hospital admissions and emergency visits that drive up health care costs and lead to poorer outcomes or untimely deaths.

But new technologies and devices that meld telemedicine with artificial intelligence and predictive analytics are giving hope for greater care coordination to thousands and potentially millions of people in the health care system.

Dan Pompilio, CEO of SimpleC, an Atlanta-based health care technology company that earlier this year signed a joint venture contract with Jems Technology of Orion Township, tells this story about an elderly patient who used SimpleC’s “Companion,” a smart software program that encourages patients to stick to their medical care plan.

John, an aging 6-foot-5-inch former offensive lineman on Michigan State University’s football team who suffered from dementia, was living in an assisted living facility in Atlanta. Day after day, John sat alone in a community room, hardly talking. Providers were intimidated by him, and family members were worried. Caregivers know patients in this condition go downhill fast.

Jason Zamer, a SimpleC clinician, met with John once a week in a therapy session. He introduced him to the Companion software and slowly taught him how to use it on a computer. Zamer added pictures from John’s past, including his old MSU football team and the fight song “Victory for MSU.”

After a few sessions, John began to respond, first using a few words, then speaking in complete sentences.

“Then, one day, Jason walked in,” Pompilio said. “He saw Jason, looked in his eyes, stood up, and sang the Michigan State fight song. Everybody in the place knew that it was more than a good day. For us, it was a turning point.

The SimpleC Companion — one of a new generation of artificial intelligence-enhanced software programs — can be installed on handheld devices like smartphones or tablets, desktops or laptop computers, said Kevin Lasser, CEO of Jems, who does business development, sales and marketing for SimpleC. Jems also manufactures telehealth devices securely transmits video images and data on patients from ambulances, emergency rooms, skilled nursing facilities and prisons.

A growing number of companies in Southeast Michigan and Canada are either signing agreements to purchase Companion or entering into pilot projects to test the technology. The licensing cost is $119 per patient with volume discounting, Lasser said. Companion is sold in 15 states with more than 2,000 users.

What is the Companion?

The SimpleC Companion can be installed on an intuitive touch-screen computer and activated on its own several times a day as a reminder for medications, activities and mealtimes. It also can offer mental stimulation to guard against anxiety and depression and improve brain health.

Each application is custom installed so users can see their own family photographs, hear such familiar audio as favorite music and personalized messages recorded by family members or caregivers.

Using an artificial intelligence platform powered by IBM’s Watson, the Companion manages chronic conditions or hospital discharge instructions. If a patient goes off track from their care plan, the device triggers notifications to family or caregivers to prevent unnecessary trips to the hospital.

Lasser said the SimpleC companion has been through multiple studies at Emory University and Johns Hopkins University. It has been used by more than 2,000 patients in 10 states.

“The patient puts (the program) on a smart device and it gives you 360-degree continuum of health care,” he said. “The caregiver has the application, the family and patient have the application. It is like having a million doctors and the smartest journals at your fingertips.”

Pilot projects with Companion

Henry Ford Village, the largest senior living facility in Michigan with more than 900 residents in Dearborn, has signed a contract with SimpleC to conduct a pilot program using Companion with 20 independent living residents who have chronic diseases, said Bruce Blalock, the Village’s executive director.

Integrity Home Health in Troy will participate as the Village’s preferred home health provider, said company founder John Byrne.

McLaren Health Management Group and about 20 of its 100 palliative care patients also will participate in a three- to six-month pilot project starting in October, CEO Bart Buxton said.

For McLaren’s palliative care patients, who are homebound and on strict therapy regimens, Buxton said consistency in care is very important to extend their lives as long as possible and reduce trips to the hospital. Current care now includes phone reminders and visits from providers to encourage they stay on their therapy regimen.

“We think this (system) will be more interactive. If a family says we can’t manage the in-between time, (they ask) what are our options?” Buxton said. “The only option is (hiring) private duty (nurses). We think (Companion) will give them another option.”

Deb Sattler, director of Windsor-Essex Compassion Care Community, said the community also is in discussions with SimpleC Companion about testing the device in a pilot program. She said using the telehealth device could help the elderly and disabled people stay in their homes.

“We hope it will help improve their quality of life as part of our program to reach the elderly, disabled or isolated,” Sattler said.

Of some 1,000 people in the community, Sattler said more than 300 have been matched with community volunteers to help them. Volunteers and family members make regular visits to people in their homes. But the Companion device can give a sense of 24-7 support and connections outside of the regular aspects of care, she said.

“It brings that human touch. I love the use of music, person pictures, gentle reminders,” she said. “People can support themselves, make decisions to help themselves. They just sometimes need a little help.”

Sattler, who also is team manager of the Canadian Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, said the community hopes to start testing 10 of the devices this fall. “Probably 5 to 10 percent of the 400,000 population” in Windsor could use a device like this, she said. If it works, Sattler said it is possible the model might be used in other communities in Canada.

Blalock said he signed up to test Companion at the Village because of the potential to reduce unnecessary ambulance trips to the hospital for his residents. With 900 residents that range in age from 62 to 105, Blalock said the Village has 650 hospital admissions per year and two ambulance trips per day.

“This gives us an opportunity to give a piece of technology to our residents to stay as independent as possible,” Blalock said. “It will help foresee as many problems as possible; and allow communication with nurses and doctors to unnecessary trip to hospital as possible.”

Blalock said the Village hasn’t yet decided how to price Companion, either as a fee directly to the residents or baked in as part of the rent. The pilot will be test on 20 residents with congestive heart failure, diabetes and some dementia for three months, he said.

“A hospitalization for an 83-year-old can be traumatic. Everybody says once they go to the hospital they are usually less than they were. We are trying to do what we can to prevent that,” Blalock said.

Byrne, who also is a Village board member, said he is a big fan of telehealth because of how it extends caregivers into homes of his home health clients.

“If we can drive more care in the home, we can keep people out of the hospital. The majority of issues are not clinical. They are social. The elder person is anxious, and just talking with the caregiver, doctor, nurses to get comfortable helps a lot,” said Byrne, who founded Integrity in 2005 after his father had a near-death experience.

“I ordered home care and within 48 hours we had doctors and nurses in the home, looking after Dad. It looked like an inpatient unit more than a home,” said Byrne, adding that his mother told him: “You saved Dad’s life.”

Lasser said the Companion has been shown to stimulate positive memories in patients that encourages compliance with health care orders without the use of medications.

“The Companion application can improve health and reduce costs by using artificial intelligence for cognitive and behavioral health issues,” Pompilio said.

The use of artificial intelligence in medical software programs is just beginning. For example, Ann Arbor-based Fifth Eye Inc. is developing software to warn medical professionals that certain patients who seem to be doing well after an operation are actually, based on almost imperceptible changes in their vital signs, at risk for serious deterioration in their conditions.

Researchers at the University of Michigan, led by Mark Salamango, are using artificial intelligence to analyze patient data to show it is possible to predict if a patient is crashing, known as hemodynamic instability, Crain’s has reported. The technology combines the much better signal-to-noise ratio in current electrocardiography with machine learning and the ability of computers now to affordably process large volumes of data in real time.

The NYU School of Medicine and Facebook Artificial Intelligence Research are conducting joint research to reduce the time for MRI scans. MRI scans provide a greater level of detail than other medical imaging, but it can take 15 minutes to more than an hour compared with a minute or less for X-rays and CT scans.

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